Dr Frances Thirlway

I am a Research Fellow in the Sociology Department at the University of York. My research is qualitative and focuses on health, class and power. Current projects include smoking cessation and electronic cigarettes, intergenerational trajectories of smoking and cessation, the use of cannabis and CBD for pain relief and smoking cessation in Uganda for people living with HIV.

Patterns of regular tobacco and cannabis co-use amongst low-SES users and the arrival of CBD on the retail market: a community study

I am a Research Fellow in the Sociology Department at the University of York working on health, class and culture, with a special interest in smoking and health inequalities.  I am Principal Investigator on the Cancer Research UK-funded research project ‘Electronic cigarettes, health inequalities and smoking cessation: a community study of take-up and market evolution in two high smoking prevalence areas of the North of England’. The project runs until March 2019 and involves ethnographic fieldwork in the North East and North West. I am bilingual in French and have also done some preliminary research with e-cigarette users and vendors in the North of France. I hope to continue working on issues around smoking and electronic cigarettes in deprived areas, including smoking and cessation in the wider context of cannabis and/or cannabidiol co-use.


There has been little research into 1) the increasing inverse social gradient in regular cannabis use 2) increased regular use by older people in the UK 3) the effect on these of the arrival of cannabidiol (CBD) and new routes of administration for nicotine and cannabis including electronic cigarettes and dry herb vaporisers. This study used qualitative methods to explore changing patterns of use.


As part of a wider study of smoking and electronic cigarettes, the author conducted ethnographic research including repeated interviews with tobacco and cannabis and/or CBD users and CBD retailers.


The research took place in two deprived areas in the North of England with high tobacco and cannabis prevalence. Participants were recruited from community venues and were or had been engaged in manual and routine work.


Participants were 30 cannabis and/or CBD users and retailers.


Participants described the history and context of their tobacco, cannabis and CBD use and/or provided contextual data about the evolution of the local market.


Cannabis was widely available and used alongside tobacco by all ages and particularly by unemployed men. Younger users sought relaxation or relief from anxiety; older users, relief from pain and insomnia. More women and over-65s but fewer younger or unemployed people used CBD, due to cost.


This is the first study of emerging CBD use in the context of tobacco and cannabis use and can inform public policy and smoking cessation initiatives in lower-SES groups.

Conflicts of interest:

no conflict of interest